Why be Mindful at Work
Updated: Dec 18, 2022
Mindfulness is all the buzz, especially in corporate circles. It's become so common it has even been described as MacMindfulness, something fast and prepackaged that looks nothing like the picture on the box!
What I am talking about here is a little different. Now, don't get me wrong, apps are great, but they can only do so much. I am a mindfulness teacher and coach. I work with individuals (and also in groups) who want to learn mindfulness and discover how to integrate it into their everyday life and work.
When we learn to work mindfully, we learn to live in the present moment with whatever is present, in order to explore your thoughts, habits, sensations, patterns, blocks as well as your intuitive felt sense.
But why bother? What's the point of being aware in the present moment anyway? And at work especially?
Here's a few good reasons:
Stress reduction is very good reason to be present at work. When we are stressed we lose our present moment awareness. The only thing we know is the stress that we are under. The mind strives harder and harder to solve the problem by focusing on it and by amping up the stress levels. So at first it might seem counterintuitive then that coming into the present moment might actually be helpful to this process. Surely we should stay with it, right? Wrong.
When we are stressed our threat mode has been activated. The older and more primitive parts of the brain and nervous system have become engaged. The sympathetic nervous system has taken over. Now this might be useful if we were in a dangerous situation that might pose a real and present danger to life and limb, but an email from your boss isn't dangerous in that sense. Our primitive brains just don't know the difference. And it's the imagination that keeps us amping an email up into a perceived threat.
It's the word perceived that's important there. When we are in threat mode we often don't even read emails clearly. The threat might not be there at all. How often do you mis-read something when you're triggered? Or dash off a reply before you've had time to think? How often have you looked again and realised you over-reacted?
This happens because when we are feeling threatened, the parts of the brain that perceive nuance and subtleties are offline. While the sympathetic nervous system has you caught up, you can't think like a human. You need to get your parasympathetic nervous system to come back online for that. How do you do that? Mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness through a thirty second mindfulness break helps the body to come out of fight or flight. The blood flow returns to the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The vision widens out. The heart rate slows. Digestion restarts. We relax and think more clearly again.
Assertiveness is another good reason to be mindful at work. If you find it hard to speak up for yourself, to challenge others or to say no, then mindfulness can help. Underneath all of these are patterns. When we learn to take a breath, grounds ourselves and relax, we can see our patterns of avoidance more clearly. We begin to notice how these keep us stuck in our home lives and at work. We can learn to use approach patterns instead of avoidance to learn to speak up more.
Relationships can become more mindful. When we struggle to be ourselves at work, everyone loses out, not just us. The company misses out on our input. We don't show up as fully with our colleagues. We find it hard to challenge others. And we also don't get noticed for promotion.
Becoming more mindful in relationship is vital to good communication. If you're finding that you say the wrong thing because you're worrying too much about creating a good impression or if you're getting tongue tied because you're afraid to say the wrong thing, then a few seconds feeling into the soles of your feet is going to help you feel more grounded and present. And then you can consciously offer yourself some encouragement or remind yourself to look the other person in the eye or to speak clearly.
If you're finding yourself dodging into the restroom to cry when a discussion with a colleague has gone wrong, perhaps a compassion break would be more useful instead of beating yourself up about it? Allow yourself to become present with a few conscious breaths, then offer yourself some kindness or an acknowledgment that this situation is hard, just like you might say to a friend.
Finding yourself distracted at meetings by things happening in the room or in your body? Name it! Saying "ooh I dropped my pen" as you reach down to grab it off the floor brings presence and congruence to a meeting. Likewise, offering "I notice my picture has frozen" lets people in online meetings know what is happening, and makes you look confident in naming it.
People often feel too self conscious to say these things. And self-consciousness is to be avoided, right? Wrong. When we avoid things, we tend to get more of them. It gets hard not to avoid again next time. Worse still it creates a habit of avoidance. Coming into the present moment lets us engage the approach system. People respect presence. And it will get you noticed!
Meeting people is easier with mindfulness. Are you really present to hear someone's name when they are introduced to you? Are you taking in the tiny details of who is in front of you? Are you really shaking their hand? Are you really listening? Do they see you being present? Or do you seem distracted?
With mindfulness, you can stay present to hear that name, be aware of the firmness of their handshake, and alert to any needs they might have "I notice your glass is empty" or "would you like me to take your coat?"
It's smart and it's genuine. And not only does it mean you make an impression, it means others make an impression on you. You will remember more about them which makes for better and stronger relationships. Now you are really networking, because you're really present to do it.
Mindfulness training and coaching is available in groups and one to one sessions with Bright Consciousness.
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